The 1880s were a time of turbulence in battleship design theories. For two decades even the Royal Navy, the pre-eminent naval force in the world tried samples of different design theories in the 1870s and 1880s. It was not until the end of the decade that the standard form of the predreadnought evolved with twin turrets (actually heavily armored gun houses) on centerline, one forward and one aft. Another area of evolution was the manner in which the heavy guns would be mounted. Broadside guns gave way to central citadel or turret mountings. A turret was a heavily armored cylinder, resting on a turntable with little armor covering the ammunition trunk below it. The French Navy came up with a different idea, the barbette system.
The barbette had a heavily armored cylinder protecting the ammunition passage below the guns and ended with the lighter turntable mounting the guns. Since the weight of armor was much lower than in a turret design, the guns on a barbette design could be carried higher. Gunners would have better vision and be able to work their pieces in seaways that would curtail turret operation. Initially the guns on the barbette design were open to the elements and enemy fire. The thought of the time was that with open guns, the sailors would be braver, since they were not hiding behind armor and further that this would encourage them to be more efficient in order to hit the enemy before they in turn were hit. It didn’t take long before officers with some degree of common sense noticed that the crew serving open guns suffered a lowering of morale because of their exposed position and efficiency suffered through the crew being exposed to the elements. This gave birth to the lightly armored gun house on top of the armored barbette. It provided enough armor to protect against the smaller QF guns and boosted morale but was not heavy enough to drastically affect the stability of the ship. Eventually these gun houses evolved with heavier and heavier armor until they were as heavily armored as a turret design.
of Dvenadtsat Apostolov
Laid Down - February 1888; Launched - September 1890; Commissioned - December 1892; Stricken - April 1911
8,709 tons (8,076 tons as designed); Length
- 342 feet (104.24m); Width
- 60 feet (18.29m);
four 12-Inch (305mm) 30 cal; four 6-Inch/35; twelve 3 pdr QF; ten 1 pdr
QF; six 15-Inch Torpedo Tubes (aw)
Machinery - Eight boilers, Two shafts; Vertical Triple Expansion; 8,750 ihp; Maximum Speed - 15.75 Knots
In February 1888 the Imperial Russian Navy laid down a new design for a battleship for their Black Seas Fleet. It featured the barbette system of armoring the gun positions and was named the Dvenadtsat Apostolov (ДВЕНАДЦАТЬ АПОСТОЛОВ). Of all of the major naval powers, Imperial Russia alone, continued to name ships with religious names connected with the Russian Orthodox Church. Dvenadtsat Apostolov is Russian for Twelve Apostles. The Dvenadtsat Apostolov was launched in September 1890 and completed in December 1892, which was a fairly fast construction time for the Russian shipbuilding industry of the time. It was certainly a faster build than the contemporary USS Texas, which was laid down in September 1888, seven months after Dvenadtsat Apostolov but finished in September 1895 almost three years after Dvenadtsat Apostolov.
The Dvenadtsat Apostolov is an excellent example of a barbette design battleship, which also incorporated a light gun house. The armored cylinder barbettes beneath the 12-Inch/30 cal (305mm) guns were given 12-10 inches of armor but the shallow domed, open faced gun houses atop the barbette only had 3-inches of armor. The shallow domes of the two gun houses are the most distinctive feature of Dvenadtsat Apostolov. Initially completed with short stacks, the stacks were heightened in 1897. Dvenadtsat Apostolov peacefully served out her career in the Black Sea. She, along with the rest of the ships of the Black Seas Fleet, missed events of the Russo-Japanese War, since they were denied transit through the Bosporus and Dardanelles. On March 19, 1911 she was relegated to harbor defense and within a few weeks on April 4, 1911, she was struck off the navy list. Dvenadtsat Apostolov did not come out of retirement for World War One and the hulk hung around until 1922, when she along with most other old and not so old tonnage was scrapped by the new and financially strapped Soviet government.
When I heard that Combrig was producing the Dvenadtsat Apostolov, I wondered how they would capture the look of the gun houses. With this kit they tried a new approach in model design for them. The shallow dome gun houses are hollow with the guns being replicated all the way to the breach. With the open face in the front of the gun house, Combrig’s design allows a certain amount of the interior of the gun house to be seen. As in the actual design, the base of the guns will sit on a turntable deck with the barrels just over the lip of the barbette and the light gun house over the top. The main guns of the period featured a series of reinforcing bands that grew thicker the closer you came to the breach. With the design of the Dvenadtsat Apostolov these bands are extremely prominent and add a great deal of character to the model.
Although the main guns with their barbettes and gun houses are the most noticeable feature of the kit, there are plenty of other smaller resin pieces to interest the modeler. One small part that clearly shows that Combrig continues to advance the level of detail in their kits is the inclusion of small support brace platform that is placed under the conning tower. Russian capital ships and cruisers of the period normally had a series of braces under the conning tower. Combrig always includes this feature with their 1:350 kits but now it is also included as a separate part for the Dvenadtsat Apostolov. Another variance from past practice is the inclusion of separate stack bases, rather than having them cast integral to the hull. Since Combrig uses a number of model designers, this may be the choice of the designer of the model rather than a shift in prior trends. These base plates come on any extremely thin and easy to clean resin film sheet. Five different platforms are also in this sheet that build up the bridge area. Another unique look for the Dvenadtsat Apostolov is the foremast fighting top with a round conical top. The fighting top on the foremast is composed of four pieces to achieve its unique appearance. Advances have also been made in some of the smallest resin parts. There are some very small J ventilators, winches and what appear to be mushroom ventilators. Combrig also includes separate solid resin inclined ladders for the upper bridge level but as with the cast on aztec ladders, it would be better to replace them with photo-etch.
There is no photo-etch with this kit. The best fret available for any Imperial Russian Warship in this scale is the White Ensign Models fret for the Askold. Although designed for the WEM kit, this fret comes packed with goodies that can be used in models of most of the Russian warships of this period. The larger J ventilators will have to be cut down to the correct length, using the 1:700 scale profile of the instructions as a template. Other smaller resin features include the characteristic Russian heavy curved davits for the larger ship’s boats, some very fine small davits, anchors, characteristic small anchor crane on the bow, an assortment of different styles of ship’s boats and separate steam pipes for the funnels. As with the hull, the small parts were error free as well as being free of any breakage.